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The DO’s and DON’Ts of Getting a Bartender’s Attention

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We’ve all been there: You arrive at your favorite watering hole after a hard week’s work and offer to buy the first round for you and your friends. The line to get a drink is deep and stretches across the entire bar. You wait patiently, but you just can’t get the bartender’s attention with so many people vying for the same service. Your friends’ judgment becomes palpable with every passing second they spend without drinks in their hands, and you can almost hear them wondering if you just aren’t cool enough to get the bartender’s attention. You think, as you stand there clutching your cash, there must be a better way.

Turns out, there are several better ways to get your bartender’s attention if you want to stand out in a crowd. In fact, there are also some things you might be doing that are offending your bartender and hurting your chances of receiving timely service. Here, five professionals share their best tips for ordering a drink. Heed their DO’s and DON’Ts so you can spend less time in line and more time with your friends and your favorite cocktail in hand.

Robert Groves, 720 South Bar & Grill

DO:

  • Be ready with your order when the bartender approaches.
  • Act friendly.
  • Remember to tip your bartender for the service you receive, especially on the first drink ordered.
DON’T:
  • Hold money out and thrust it in the general direction of the bartender as an attempt to get served faster.
  • Snap your fingers to get attention.
  • Eat items from the garnish tray like it’s an all you can eat buffet.
  • Rip up beer bottle labels like you're some sort of child. We have to clean that up after you leave.
  • Ask for free drinks.
  • Keep yelling the bartender’s name if you can see he or she is busy with another customer.
  • Stand in the wait staff station and try to order drinks.

John Aranza, Kitty O'Sheas Irish Pub

DO:

  • Always tip on the first drink.
  • Ask the bartender his or her name after the first drink and say thanks for the attention.
  • Compliment the bartender on how well it's made after tasting your cocktail.
DON’T:
  • Wave money and yell at the bartender for service.
  • Tell the bartender the exact ingredient proportions of your favorite drink.
  • Send back a cocktail saying it wasn't what you expected.

Michael Hofstedt, Kona Tap Room at Hilton Waikoloa Village

DO:

  • Make eye contact
  • Hold cash in your hand when you approach the bar.
  • Push your empty glass away from you.
DON’T:
  • Interrupt the bartender when he or she is taking another order.
  • Yell, "Hey, barkeep, over here! I'm ready to order! Is there service at this bar?”
  • Wave your arms frantically.
  • Stand at the cocktail server station.
  • Play on your cell phone.

Zahildia Saul & Michelle Blake, Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops at Hilton Orlando

DO:

  • Make eye contact and don’t assume that by standing there the bartenders know you are waiting to order.
  • Make yourself accessible. Standing in an obscure place like behind beer taps or behind seated guests makes it difficult for the bartender to see you.
  • Stand at the bar with cash or a card in hand. This alerts the bartender that you have not been served and will always attract the attention of the bartender.
DON’T
  • Snap fingers or wave money—this is insulting.
  • Interrupt a bartender taking an order from another guest. This is also viewed as rude and insulting.
  • Be on your phone when trying to order a drink as you are likely to be overlooked.
  • Tap or bang an empty glass on the bar—this will be viewed as rude and insulting.

Laura Metrick, Tropics Pool Bar & Grill

DO:

  • A small lift of the hand to get the bartender’s attention is acceptable.
DON’T
  • Wave your hand aggressively.
  • Ask to be “hooked up.”

Benji S, David’s Club

DO:

  • Show respect and you will get respect in return.
DON’T:
  • Wave.
  • Snap your fingers.
  • Scream, “Hey bartender!”
  • Say, “Take care of me, I’ll make it worth your while.” People who do so are usually the cheapest.
  • Say, “This one’s on the house, right?”

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